Friday, March 1, 2013

Changing technology in interiors

Recently while checking out a new project, I came across a forgotten relic in an unused corner of a building.  The structure has had many uses over the decades and somewhere during the passage of time, an old hanging oil lamp was converted to electricity.  Rather than dispose of the old 'technology' despite its dated appearance and missing parts the light fixture was re-purposed. Will it survive another 150 years; only time will tell! But what will happen to the light fixtures we install today in 150 years, let alone tv cabling and wiring. I can attest to personally removing about a mile of exposed telephone wires from my current apartment!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Posh Pockets of DC

While wandering around the city this past weekend I visited one of my favorite little pockets of the city, hidden in plain sight. You know what I mean when I say pocket of course;  A small separate but unexpected area set within a different neighborhood.

This pocket in particular has retained an aire of exclusivity despite being nestled into a neighborhood recently known more for prostitution and drugs than affluent housing; the epicenter of such a crime zone in fact. Not one but two houses (mansions really) designed by my favorite architect, John Russell Pope, reside cheek to jowl across from one of the most beautiful Coop buildings in the city.

At the time these residences were built of course, the early 1910s till mid 1920s, this area of the city was one of the most exclusive residential neighborhoods in the city. Many of these fine houses still exist although in somewhat dire circumstances as embassies and apartment houses in shabby condition. However this one hidden pocket along a one way street has remained the lair of wealth. 

Pope designed the first house seen here in 1925 for Irwin Laughlin in the Louis XVI style. Oddly enough, Laughlin was from my hometown of Pittsburgh and the grandson of one of the founders of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company (you may remember I wrote about the Jones mansions in Pittsburgh at an earlier date). The neighboring house was built earlier in 1912 for Henry White - both houses now function as headquarters for the same organization.
At the same time as the Laughlin residence was being completed in 1925, a grand apartment building was being designed directly across the street by Joseph Younger in Georgian Revival style. City living, where else could your mansion be directly located across the street from apartments (admittedly the poshest apartments of their kind). 
This glorious buildings features many of my favorite apartments in the city and rarely come up for sale: wood burning fireplaces, up to 4 bedrooms and grand entertaining spaces are not easy to find in Washington real estate.
The building is detailed as finely as the Pope mansions across the street: important as these apartments originally sold for higher square footage costs than those very houses!
The original elevator has been lovingly retained (albeit with new mechanical systems) and is identical to the one in my own building built at the same time period. However, they have cleverly stripped the paint from the metal -allowing the classical design of industrial materials to shine through.
Photos taken with my iphone, select and click to enlarge.